The report investigates whether positive changes can be observed among youth living in the hometowns of Canadian athletes that competed or won medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games. It finds that inspiration from watching medal performances may be heightened when local youth audiences feel connected to athletes and when their achievements appear attainable.
Researchers analysed youth leisure-time physical activity rates in the hometown regions of Canadian athletes who won a medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Data was extracted from the Canadian Community Health Survey and spanned the years leading up to the games, 2009 to 2010 to post-Olympic years, 2013 to 2014.
The trends observed in the study were more prominent among male-identified youth, indicating there is still work to be done to ensure equity and inclusion in sports— including female-identified youth, who often face greater barriers to sports participation than male-identified youth.
Dr Girish Ramchandani, associate professor of sport management and researcher in the Sports Industry Research Group at Sheffield Hallam, said: “Our research with the University of Waterloo shows that Olympic success can have a positive impact on physical activity levels of young people, particularly in the hometowns of medal winning athletes. Olympic medallists are often viewed as role models and these athletes may become personally relevant to youth who reside in the same hometowns as their role models, which in turn creates a heightened sense of inspiration among youth to emulate their athletic achievements.
“Our findings suggest that the continued Olympic success of Team GB at Tokyo 2020 provides a platform to inspire young people across the country to become more active. The towns and cities to which these athletes belong have an important role to play to ensure that sufficient opportunities exist for harnessing this inspiration, in order to promote healthier lifestyles among youth and to support the next generation of Olympians and Paralympians.”
Professor Luke Potwarka, recreation and leisure studies expert at the University of Waterloo, said: “Winning medals often creates athletic role models and celebrities, which may help explain trickle-down effects observed in hometown communities. Olympic and Paralympic medal winners may become personally relevant to local youth because of shared connections that exist within hometown areas, such as access to community sports programs, coaches and facilities.”
Prior to the study, much of the research examining the impact of sports participation as a result of mega-sports events has been limited to observations within the host country.
The findings indicate that the inspirational effects of major sporting events can be a global phenomenon, which can be seen as important with many events attracting online and television audiences from all over the world.
The report, Beyond the host nation: an investigation of trickle-down effects in the Hometowns’ of Canadian athletes who competed at the London 2012 Olympic Games, is co-authored by Luke Potwarka, Girish Ramchandani, Pablo Castellanos-Garcia, Themistocles Kokolakakis, Georgia Teare and Kai Jiang. It has been published in European Sport Management Quarterly.